How to Train Your Dog to Not Bark at Birds

Medium
2-6 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

Birds visiting your yard and home can be relaxing to watch, beautiful to listen to, and incredibly exciting for your dog. If you have a yard full of birds or bird houses and feeders around your house, your dog may be barking at them. 

A dog who barks at the birds outside your home can not only disturb the birds and scare them away but also annoy your neighbors. There is nothing quite like ruining a quiet weekend morning coffee with a dog barking at your peaceful scenery in the springtime as the birds flit from flower to flower in your blooming garden. Train your dog not to bark at the birds and enjoy your time outside together while leaving nature to entertain you and help you relax. Your dog might see birds as toys or even as threats, so it will be up to you to give your dog entertainment as well as safety and security, so he sees no need to scare off the birds. 

Defining Tasks

Giving your dog something better to do than barking at birds will help with this training. Your dog will also need to know it’s not his job to protect you from the birds around. Getting him to ignore the birds might be more difficult than getting his attention on something else, but you can try both ways to get him to stop barking at the birds. You can offer your dog toys to play with, treats to eat, or a trip back into the house to get him occupied doing something else besides barking at birds. You can train any dog these manners and behaviors. Younger dogs are easier to train as older dogs need to rebuild old habits, but with the right rewards and positive training, even your older dog can learn to leave the birds alone. 

Getting Started

Have alternatives ready for your dog as you begin to expect him no to bark at birds. Treats, toys, and puzzle toys with hidden treats to keep his interest can keep him busy outside as he gets used to the birds in his space. Be patient and consistent with this training. High-value treats will also help to reward your pup when he does a good job ignoring the birds and to remind him to leave them alone if he wants to continue to earn rewards. 

The Leave It Method

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Step
1
Training the command
Train your dog the 'leave it' command, so you can use it when you are outside and he is barking at the birds in your yard.
Step
2
Treat
Start training your dog to 'leave it' by enticing him for the treat. Hide a treat inside your hand and let your dog sniff it so he knows what is there and that he could potentially earn it.
Step
3
Command
Say the command "leave it" as your dog sniffs your hand with the treat. Of course, your dog cannot get to the treat because it's hiding within your hand.
Step
4
Ignore
Once your dog ignores your hand with the hidden treat, give him some verbal praise such as 'good boy' and then give him the treat. Eventually, he will get that ignoring whatever you're asking him to leave alone is connected with the 'leave it' command.
Step
5
Additional items
Once your dog connects the 'leave it' command with ignoring the treat hidden in your hand, take your training to additional items such as a toy or a spoonful of peanut butter you have hanging over his nose.
Step
6
Reward
Be sure to reward your dog once he takes his attention away from whatever it is he wants after you use the 'leave it' command.
Step
7
Outside with birds
After several sessions and high rewards with the 'leave it' command, take your dog outside and allow him to bark at the birds. Once your dog starts barking, say the command 'leave it.'
Step
8
Attention elsewhere
Once he hears that command, he should pause and either give you his attention or at least take his attention off of the birds. Once he does this, give him a treat. Practice this command to 'leave it' every time he's outside barking at the birds. Be sure you only give the command when the birds are getting his attention.
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The Redirect Method

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Step
1
Outside
Take your dog outside when you know the birds are active. Encourage him to run around and play in your backyard and wait for him to bark at the birds.
Step
2
Uh-Oh
As soon as your dog barks at the birds say the words ‘Uh-Oh,’ and give him the logical consequence of needing to go back inside.
Step
3
Inside
As soon as you say "Uh-Oh" take your dog back inside the house.
Step
4
Try again
Try to take your dog back outside again when the birds are active. This can be moments later or this can be hours later.
Step
5
Repeat
Repeat the steps above when your dog barks at the birds. This will condition him to understand each time he barks at the birds, you say "uh-oh" and he has to go inside. He will eventually learn that if he wants to be outside he needs to not bark at the birds.
Step
6
Treat
When your dog is outside and not barking at the birds, reward good behavior. Notice when your dog is ignoring the birds and give him a treat. This will also condition him to believe he can earn treats for being quiet and not barking at the birds.
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The Birds are Good Method

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Step
1
Introduce birds
Take your dog outside for a walk around your backyard. Point out the birds. If you have birdhouses this is even easier to do so he can see the house that is always in the same place, and talk to him about the birds.
Step
2
Break focus
As you're walking together, if your dog barks at the birds show him a treat to get his focus on you and off of the birds.
Step
3
Treat
Once your dog's attention is on you and off of the birds, give him the treat.
Step
4
Command
After practicing this several times when your dog is barking at the birds, you need to give him a command. This can be specific to the birds or a command you use for other things when you need to get his attention away from something that is distracting him. A 'watch me' command works or even just the words 'no birds.’
Step
5
Barking
Once your dog has moved focus from the birds to you, begin to use your verbal cues and commands such as 'no birds' when he starts barking. Pair the command with a treat so he can associate the word with the action of not barking, along with the potential of earning a reward.
Step
6
Practice
Practice this as often as you can. Before you head outside once your dog understands the commands 'no birds,' say it as you open the door and walk outside.
Recommend training method?
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Written by Stephanie Plummer

Published: 01/04/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Ozzy
Jack Russell Terrier
7 Years
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Question
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Ozzy
Jack Russell Terrier
7 Years

He barks all the time nothing stops him I'm at the end of my teacher with him birds flies anything my I would say neighbours but I'd say neighbour hood has had enough and so have I please help any advice would be appreciated Sharon and ozzy

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
912 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sharon, I recommend combining a few things in your case. First, work on teaching the Quiet command and once he knows that command, practice in the garden around the birds. Once he can respond, then reward primarily at times when he stays quiet when a bird is present - instead of just barking then stopping. Practice this often to help desensitize him and create a habit of not barking - the habit part is important. Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Second, give him something to do while in the garden, other than barking. I suggest a dog-food stuffed chew toy or automatic treat dispensing device, or dog food filled puzzle toy. You won't want to leave those things out there overnight due to animals, but using food filled toys can help train him to occupy himself with his own toys. Look up different ways to stuff Kongs to make them interesting and try a few different ways to see what he lives. Adding liver paste to the toy can also make it more interesting. Finally, barking is a self-rewarding behavior due to the chemicals released in a dog's brain when they bark. Some especially notorious barkers are almost "addicted" to barking itself. Try the above training by itself first, but if you are still struggling, you probably need a form of interrupter - especially one that will work even when pup can't see you. This could be an unscented air canister - called a Pet convincer, which is sprayed briefly at pup's side while saying "Ah Ah" when they disobey your Quiet command (don't use citronella and don't spray in the face), a remote training collar (many high quality e-collars have tone, vibration, and stimulation). You could use the tone as a reminder to be quiet, followed by a brief vibration to interrupt pup - each time they bark, or the lowest level of stimulation pup responds to - called a "working level". There are also stimulation based and unscented air spray collars that are automatic - called "bark collars". Don't use the citronella variety because they are too harsh for a dog's sensitive nose and can linger the scent, making the training confusing. Some dogs will respond to just the air puff but others will need vibration or stimulation instead. If you go a remote collar or bark collar route - it's extremely important to only use a high quality one, such as E-collar technologies, Dogtra, SportDog, or Garmin. Cheap, less known brands online can potentially be dangerous due to poor quality. It's also extremely important to combine corrections with the Quiet training and desensitizing, rewards for not barking, and toys to help with the boredom. The point of the corrections is to "snap" pup out of barking long enough to give an opportunity for pup to learn to calm down and be quiet - then be rewarded for it with toys and treats, to create a new, better quiet habit, in place of the barking. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Cookie
Bulldog
4 Years
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Question
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Cookie
Bulldog
4 Years

I have a four year old English bulldog she weighs about 45 pounds

She’s very friendly and generally very well behaved but does have a few bad habits

She already had a tendency to bark at the dogs she would see on TV

running towards the TV set and jumping at it All the time barking semi aggressively

a strange noise in the house will also put her on Alert so even though if she’s laying comfortable

she will instantly jump up barking aggressively and go running towards wherever the sound came from

I’ve tried to tell her nice nice when she sees the dogs on the TV but it really doesn’t keep her from going nuts

She also has never been able to share her toys or food with other dogs

She becomes aggressive if they try to fetch her ball while she is going for it or if they try to eat something while she is around even if it’s their own food

The reason why I am writing now is Because the small amount of peace that we did have in the house is gone since I brought home a little bird That I had received for a birthday present

He’s a little bit bigger than a parakeet and does make common tweeting sounds as well as flap his wings as he bounces around his cage

she has become extremely jealous when she sees him sitting on his play-set messing with his toys or even if he is sitting on my arm

she wants to come over and sniff him when I let her she tries to lick him Yesterday she bit on his tail feathers but they just slipped right through her mouth because they’re so thin

and then starts having Full blown huffing puffing barking whining Tantrums which then turned into struggling to breathe panting and then overheating

She’s taken to barking at everything on the TV now

while she’s sitting between myself and my boyfriend just waiting for something to pop up so she can run at the TV growling and challenging me when I tell her no stop barking

I did buy a bag of training treats and in the Mornings when she’s come out from the bedroom into the kitchen where the birds cages and say good morning cookie say good morning to the bird and I lower the bird to her face she sniffs it and I give her a treat if she doesn’t bark

Any advice you can think of or give to help the situation would be great I hate to have to return the bird because it’s making the dog have major anxiety and disciplinary problems

Sidenote she’s also taken over a specific ball she’s been guarding it and bring it around with her even outside with her to go potty and then she pulls like crazy choking herself with her collar while she drags me back inside just to go sit next to her ball

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
912 Dog owners recommended

Hello Adrienne, I would start with addressing overall behavior by adding more structure. Check out the Working method from the article I have linked below. The Obedience method could also be helpful. Working method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you I would start teaching a Quiet command. Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark For the TV, I would work on desensitizing her to the TV, starting with her hearing it while out of the room, then in the room with it on mute, then in the same room with volume low and a boring channel like shopping channel, progressing to normal volume and shows you like to walk. Reward calmness, and give her jobs to do while it's on, like heeling back and forth through your den, to keep her focus on you and not fixated on TV, and desensitize her to it. Similar to this video desensitizing a dog to dogs behind a fence - except heeling past the TV. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3n_fPKPLA2g The same exercise with the TV can be practice past the bird's cage, then eventually the bird on someone. When pup pitches a fit around the bird, if that continues to happen, you may want to consider hiring a professional trainer who specializes in behavior issues to help in person. Check out the videos below of a dog and cat. Mild cat issue - teaching impulse control: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWF2Ohik8iM Moderate cat issue - teaching impulse control using corrections and rewards: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dPIC3Jtn0E Severe cat issue: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MLJV5PBh7Y More e-collar work with cats with the same dog: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8lkbX0dhT0 Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo I would consider hiding the ball for a couple of months while you stimulate pup mentally through more boundaries and training exercises - give pup a healthier outlet through the mental work involved in training, instead of a source of obsession. Expect pup's behavior to get worse at first when you do this. Give lots of outlets for mental stimulation to help pup refocus that obsession when you do. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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